Published on February 10, 2023 by Swarnima Wadhwani
Work has evolved significantly since the pre-industrial era. Technology has become inevitable in our daily lives. The pandemic disrupted the whole world, and organisations had to accelerate their digital transformation and change their entire way of working. Employee engagement has seen a major shift. The transition to remote working shows that knowledge-based workers do not need to come to office to get work done. Seventy-four percent of those surveyed by Business Standard agreed they would be happy if provided with the option to work from home. We all agree the workplace of the future will look different, but what this means exactly is debatable. Views differ from individual contributors to managers to CEOs, depending on their values, priorities and agendas.
How much flexibility is required – working from office, working remotely or a hybrid workplace model – would depend on the organisation. The trend is towards greater freedom and autonomy, although this is not what leaders and managers are used to.
The hybrid workplace debate
Returning to office could be a controversial topic. Now that employees have experienced the benefits of working from home, they do not want to forgo the freedom and flexibility. Organisations now support working styles that give employees more freedom, according to Deloitte research, although new companies may be unwilling to.
Benefits of remote/hybrid working
A hybrid workplace helps employees use their time better. They avoid commuting at busy times, they can focus on tasks without the interruptions of the traditional office environment and they can often choose to work when they feel most productive (whether in the middle of the night or first thing in the morning). This flexibility gives them greater autonomy and satisfaction. Happier, better rested and less stressed employees work better.
The reduction in travel time is reason enough to push for remote models. Some have moved closer to family, and some may have repositioned themselves in lower-cost areas so they could get married or invest in property.
However, this is not a universal preference. Another study found that employees who have to deal with a higher degree of work-family conflict or social exclusion find remote working more taxing.
Overall, though, employees working remotely are more comfortable and satisfied with their jobs.
Benefits of working from office
Working from office gets us into work mode quickly and easily. It may help us focus better and get things done more efficiently, improving overall productivity.
It also enables in-person collaboration with colleagues. It facilitates having impromptu meetings; chatting through a screen or online could become frustrating at times, inefficient and much slower than in-person verbal communication.
Being in office could enhance creativity; it enables better brainstorming and development of new and better ideas through using office resources such as meeting rooms and databases.
In office, employees can experience scenarios crucial for their professional development. It is easier to reach out to managers for advice and ideas when facing an issue and solve problems more quickly, ultimately benefiting the business.
Although there are positives in working remotely, most also want to benefit from face-to-face interaction.
If executed well, a hybrid model can give employees the seclusion they need to be highly productive while in-office days can be used for team building, meetings and collaboration.
Choice is the future
Today’s workforce is moving away from rigidity and employer control. The pandemic has overturned set routines, abruptly engaging us in a global experiment of remote working. Roughly one-third of the leaders surveyed describe hybrid working as the ideal model, while workers prefer it as much as 83% of the time, according to a Deloitte study. These models have the potential to enhance performance and productivity; one study found that 63% of high-growth companies have already implemented hybrid models.
Organisations need to offer such flexibility if they are to attract and retain talented employees. This should be a decision made at all organisations – for interns to CEOs.
The future of work
The pandemic has had a lasting impact on work. The following are some of the emerging trends in the workplace.
Workplaces are expected to take all the hygiene- and ventilation-related precautions to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This has become more important than the usual concerns such as office ergonomics, proper lighting and comfortable workspaces. Employees’ health and safety will likely remain a top concern. Companies have taken different measures to address employees’ mental health concerns. Free or subsidised therapy sessions, mental health days and mandatory time off are some of the facilities being provided to employees.
Another trend emerging is that of asynchronous work, where members of the same team work during different times of the day. This is in contrast to the traditional working style where employees work during the same time window, e.g. 9 to 5. Many companies are even hiring employees from different time zones, benefiting from access to a larger and more diverse talent pool.
Adoption of automation and AI has also picked up after the pandemic. Companies recognised the need to accelerate their commitment to technology when the pandemic disrupted the traditional workplace. New technologies will now manage information and data with machine learning and predictive analytics, according to the World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report. They would also complete administrative duties and handle some aspects of manual labour. Employees’ roles may shift to working in collaboration with these technologies, focusing primarily on strategy, management, reasoning and communication.
How Acuity Knowledge Partners can help
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About the Author
Swarnima joined Acuity Knowledge Partners’ (Acuity’s) PEC team with over two years of experience. She specializes in the banking and wealth management industries. She currently supports the global wealth team of one of the topmost consulting firms. She is an MBA in Finance and Marketing from IMT Hyderabad.
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